Caring for Minority Ethnic elders in Europe

Caring for Minority Ethnic elders in Europe

Written by: Hazel Waters

The rapid ageing of Europe’s population has become Europe’s number one issue according to an MEP speaking, on 9 December 2004, at the launch of the Summary Findings from the Minority Elderly Care (MEC) project.

The research revealed some shocking facts, including:

  • Thirty-five per cent of elders surveyed in the UK are in poor, or very poor health;
  • Turkish elders in Netherlands, despite their ‘younger’ age distribution, have the worst health and most potentially disabling conditions;
  • The same was also true of Turkish elders in Germany.
  • Moroccan elders in Spain, only 17 per cent of whom could speak Spanish, suffered both the highest levels of racial harassment and the poorest health.
  • Thirty-seven per cent of former-Yugoslavians resident in Switzerland (many of them refugees) are in poor, or very poor, health.
  • Life expectancy among Roma is far lower than among mainstream communities in every country in which they were surveyed.

The research encapsulates the main lessons learnt from in-depth surveys of Minority Ethnic (ME) elders, ME voluntary organisations and mainstream care and service providers across ten European countries. Over 3,200 elders, 900 professionals and 300 voluntary organisations were surveyed in the research, which aimed to investigate ME elders’ needs, expectations and perceptions of health and social care services.

The project was designed to encompass as wide a range of countries as possible, with differing social and health care systems, a variety of funding mechanisms, and widely varied levels of prosperity. They ranged from prosperous Germany, with a population of around 82.5 million, to war-torn and impoverished Bosnia-Herzegovina, with an estimated population somewhere between three and four million. Yet the similarities revealed by the research are as striking as the differences.

The rapid ageing of Europe’s population has become, said Claude Moraes MEP, ‘Europe’s number one issue’. There are, he said, ‘literally millions of ME elders whose needs are not met. And enlargement meant that, without effective policies, ‘millions will fall through the cracks’. It is now seen as urgent to address Europe’s demographic time-bomb. The issues that Policy Research Institute on Ageing and Ethnicity (PRIAE) is raising, about the situation of those who had been recruited into Europe’s labour force and given their working lives to its prosperity, has scarcely registered ‘on the radar of the EU’. But today, because of PRIAE’s efforts, they are ‘very much a priority’. ‘Joined-up government’ in this area is vital for producing a common thread to guide policy and dispel confusion among policy-makers.

Now, as a result of PRIAE’s work through the MEC project, a significant and substantial database had been built up which could be used to inform policy and policy-makers.

Naina Patel, PRIAE Director and MEC Co-ordinator, called for MEC-type research to be mainstream-resourced. Nowhere else had it been, or was it likely to be, replicated. No one before had looked on such a scale or in such scope at the degree of satisfaction with services among ME users. Outlining the nature and foci of the project, she stressed the importance of quality theory to the project – while the quality of provision has been important for research into majority provision, services to ME communities have hitherto always been looked at through the lens of culture. But the application of quality theory in the MEC project has led to the identification of major, unmet needs.

Related links

Full text of the Minority Ethnic Care Summary Findings (pdf file, 14kb)

Policy Research Institute on Ageing and Ethnicity

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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